Contemplating trees, out walking the dog last weekend, I was struck by a line of them that have been ‘managed’.
And the reason is evident lying on the ground – a great big one that fell last year on a windy day. Without having chunks periodically lopped off them, they’d get too big and too unwieldy for the park authorities.
I was struck by the fact that mighty as they are – each with the same impressive twisted pattern in their hefty trunks – they were all different shapes and had been chopped back in different places. The results were fundamentally not that shapely. They’re impressive and large, but a bit misshapen and not all that handsome in truth. And my eye was drawn to one that visibly had had a big bough lopped off it.
I felt a bit sorry for this tree. What had it done to deserve such a hacking with a chainsaw. And this set me thinking about life… looked at more closely all the older trees were misshapen. They all stood dignified and tall (except the big one now on its back sawn into pieces) but all of them had been trimmed, twisted and bent out of shape by park life.
There were smaller ones which were still perky and largely symmetrical (here’s one with the dog looking on)…
…but the big ones had all had branches which had been cut back and shapes distorted by arrested growth and long life.
And so with trees it seems to me with people. As I looked at the first tree that caught my eye, with its circled chopped bough, it made me think of my own career and life.
Lots of things I have branched out into have come to an end. Jobs and projects either outgrown by new activities or chopped off by life’s ever-active lopping shears. The odd big life branch has even been hacked off against my wishes like that chainsawed bough. My tree is getting more and more twisted and gnarled – but above all distinctive and different with the passage of time.
Big old trees are products of their environment; and when that environment includes people they get shaped, pruned, lopped, frustrated and ultimately felled. But the individual branches matter less over time.
Old trees stand as evidence of perseverance in all conditions. We may be less pretty as we age, but our many years of adaptation and growth, and the storms and setbacks we have weathered ultimately make us much more interesting.